Date: 23 Mar 1944
Rebecca Harradine was found dead in her bed on Thursday 23 March 1944.
Following her death her family had her body embalmed which destroyed all traces of her cause of death and an open verdict was returned.
She was the wife of the licensee of the Rising Sun on Spa hill in Upper Norwood.
Her husband said that Rebecca Harradine had worked very hard in the bars and had done so on the Wednesday 22 March 1944, the day before she died.
He said that they went to bed at about 10.30pm, stating that Rebecca Harradine seemed normal. He said that he slept most of the night and woke up at 7am the following morning. He said that he didn't notice anything unusual about her during the night and noted that if anything had been wrong, she could have woken him as he was a light sleeper. However, he said that when he woke up Rebecca Harradine seems to still be asleep and so he didn't disturb her and lay there beside her until about 8.15am. He said that he then got up to put the electric blanket on and said that when he got back to bed he thought that it was strange that Rebecca Harradine had not given any signs of life and that when he then touched her arm he noticed that it was very cold and so he covered it with the bed clothes and then lay there a while longer. However, he said that when he later touched her face he realised that something was wrong and called his son who fetched his daughter-in-law who then called for the doctor.
The daughter-in-law said that when Rebecca Harradine's son called her and told her that Rebecca Harradine had died in the night she went to look and saw her dead in her bed and then called for the doctor.
At the inquest, the daughter-in-law said that she remembered about eight weeks earlier when she had seen Rebecca Harradine's husband hit Rebecca Harradine. She said that she saw him strike her in an argument that had made a bruise over her right eye after he had lost his temper. However, she said that he later apologised to the whole family for his action and noted that it was the only time that she had ever seen him strike her.
The doctor said that he had treated Rebecca Harradine for bronchitis and flu about three months earlier but said that she had since completely recovered. He said that when he was called to the Rising Sun public house, he arrived at about 10am and found that she was dead and that rigor mortis had set in. He added that he found no marks of violence. He said that he called later and said that he would bring or send a death certificate that evening. However, he said that he later realised that he had not seen Rebecca Harradine professionally during the past fourteen days and so decided to report her death to the Coroner which he did the next morning.
Rebecca Harradine's sister was called on the Thursday and told that Rebecca Harradine was dead and when she arrived at the Rising Sun, she said that Rebecca Harradine's husband asked her to make all the funeral arrangements. She said that when she arrived the doctor was there and said that he told her that Rebecca Harradine had died from fatty degeneration of the heart and said that she heard him say that he would bring or send a certificate that evening.
Rebecca Harradine's sister said that she then rang up the undertakers that morning, Thursday 23 March, and told them that she would like them to carry out the arrangements for Rebecca Harradine's funeral. She said that when the undertaker asked her whether she would like Rebecca Harradine embalmed she said, 'Yes'. She said that the undertaker asked her whether she had a death certificate and said that she told him that the doctor was bringing it round that evening. She said that the undertaker also asked her whether there was going to be an inquest and she said that there would not be one and said that the undertaker then told her that he would send someone to do the embalming that afternoon.
The pathologist said that all the organs were affected by the embalming and as such he could not give a firm cause of death. He said, 'I am unable to exclude poison as a cause of death'. He added that a pulmonary embolism could in theory follow a blackeye but added that it was very rare.
When the Coroner summed up he said that in his opinion no embalmers should start their work until they had seen the death certificate and commented on what he called, 'a combination of unfortunate circumstances', and then returned an open verdict.
see Norwood News - Friday 31 March 1944